Posts Tagged ‘John McCain

28
Apr
10

Goldman’s defense? We’re misunderstood

NEWS
Goldman’s defense? We’re misunderstood

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Top Goldman Sachs officials have defended their conduct in the financial crisis, flatly disputing the government’s fraud allegations against the giant financial house. I did not mislead investors, insisted a trading executive at the heart of the government’s case.

But they ran into a wall of bipartisan wrath before a Senate panel investigating Goldman’s role in the financial crisis and the Securities and Exchange Commission fraud suit against it and one of its traders. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) accused Goldman on Tuesday of making risky financial bets.

About a half dozen protesters were in the committee room, dressed in prison stripes with names on signs around their necks of Fabrice Tourre, the only company official directly accused in the SEC suit, and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who was also scheduled to testify.

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27
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs: Lloyd Blankfein Says Firm Doesn’t Need to Disclose Position

NEWS
Goldman Sachs: Lloyd Blankfein Says Firm Doesn’t Need to Disclose Position

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, assailed Goldman as representative of Wall Street’s ‘unbridled greed,’ drawing them into a raging political battle over financial reform.

The Senate was expected to vote later on Tuesday on whether to proceed with debate about the most sweeping financial reforms in a generation, a day after Republicans successfully blocked a similar move.

Against this caustic backdrop executives battled to salvage the firm’s reputation, rejecting charges – recently filed by a U.S. watchdog – that Goldman sold clients a complex financial product devised by some who bet against it.

Levin demanded to know why Goldman had been ‘trying to sell a shitty deal’ to investors, fuming that ‘as we speak, lobbyists fill the halls of Congress hoping to weaken or kill reforms that would end these abuses.’
French trader Fabrice Fabulous Fab Tourre, who is at the centre of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against the firm, was among the first to be dragged before the committee.

He denied any wrongdoing: ‘I deny – categorically – the SEC’s allegation. And I will defend myself in court against this false claim,’ said Tourre.

‘I have been the target of unfounded attacks on my character and motives.’

If Goldman executives hoped to get an easier ride from Republicans, they may have been disappointed. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain was scathing.

‘I don’t know if Goldman Sachs has done anything illegal,’ he said, adding that ‘from the reading of these emails and the information that this committee has uncovered there is no doubt their behaviour was unethical and the American people will render a judgment as well as the courts.’

Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein was due to appear later in the day, but in prepared testimony said there was nothing wrong with Goldman hedging its bets by holding ”short” positions that would benefit the firm if housing prices collapsed.

‘(We) didn’t have a massive short (position) against the housing market and we certainly did not bet against our clients,’ he said.

‘If our clients believe that we don’t deserve their trust, we cannot survive,’ he said. ‘We believe that we managed our risk as our shareholders and our regulators would expect.’

Blankfein also said that, ‘while profitable overall,’ Goldman lost about $1.2 billion from investments tied to the residential housing market.
In the hearing, Levin pointed to Goldman email messages he said refuted the firm’s claims.

In one November 2007 message from Blankfein, he says: ‘Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,’ which are essentially bets that the market will drop.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, assailed Goldman as representative of Wall Street’s ‘unbridled greed,’ drawing them into a raging political battle over financial reform.

The Senate was expected to vote later on Tuesday on whether to proceed with debate about the most sweeping financial reforms in a generation, a day after Republicans successfully blocked a similar move.

Against this caustic backdrop executives battled to salvage the firm’s reputation, rejecting charges – recently filed by a U.S. watchdog – that Goldman sold clients a complex financial product devised by some who bet against it.

Levin demanded to know why Goldman had been ‘trying to sell a shitty deal’ to investors, fuming that ‘as we speak, lobbyists fill the halls of Congress hoping to weaken or kill reforms that would end these abuses.’

French trader Fabrice Fabulous Fab Tourre, who is at the centre of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against the firm, was among the first to be dragged before the committee.
He denied any wrongdoing: ‘I deny – categorically – the SEC’s allegation. And I will defend myself in court against this false claim,’ said Tourre.

‘I have been the target of unfounded attacks on my character and motives.’

If Goldman executives hoped to get an easier ride from Republicans, they may have been disappointed. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain was scathing.

‘I don’t know if Goldman Sachs has done anything illegal,’ he said, adding that ‘from the reading of these emails and the information that this committee has uncovered there is no doubt their behaviour was unethical and the American people will render a judgment as well as the courts.’

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13
Apr
10

Democrats take aim at John Roberts court

NEWS
Democrats take aim at John Roberts court

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Democrats hope to turn the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings into a referendum of sorts on controversial recent decisions by the Roberts court – portraying the conservative majority as a judicial Goliath trampling the rights of average Americans.

As President Barack Obama mulls possible replacements for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, the administration and congressional aides are gravitating toward a strategy that goes beyond the goals of a run-of-the-mill confirmation fight – to define a corporations-vs.-the-common-man battle between Democrats and the high court.

In addition to building a defensive perimeter around Obama’s pick – whoever that may be – Democrats will use the hearings to attack what they view as a dangerous strain of conservative judicial activism espoused by Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr. and Associate Justices Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., Antonin Gregory Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

“I don’t think people are going to tell the nominee, ‘It is terrible what the Roberts court has done — what are you going to do to reverse it?’” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), laying out the argument on Monday.

“But I think what people are going to do is say, ‘Do you share our concern about the fact that the court always seems to side with the big corporate interests against the average American?’” he added. “I think there’s going to be more of the public realizing they really do have a stake in who’s on the Supreme Court.”

Obama himself laid the groundwork for the strategy during the State of the Union speech in February, when he stunned Roberts and Alito by sharply criticizing their 5-to-4 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which loosened McCain-Feingold restrictions on corporate contributions to campaigns.

“The justice [Obama] appoints will be a pivotal voice on this court on issues like, for example, the one we just saw, Citizens United, where the court ruled that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as individuals and they basically sanctioned a corporate takeover of our elections,” said Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Monday.

“Massive new spending by corporations – these kinds of decisions affect people’s lives. And the justice he appoints will be there for a generation,” added Axelrod.

Still, administration officials suggested Obama won’t seek to balance the court by tapping a controversial liberal.

Instead, the White House is emphasizing a candidate’s temperament, hoping to pick a “confirmable” candidate who shares Stevens’s personal charm and gifts of persuasion – which sometimes helped him win over swing voter Anthony Kennedy.

“The president will weigh heavily the ability of a nominee to build a consensus and win over a majority of his or her colleagues to counterbalance the increasingly ideological manner in which the business of the Supreme Court is conducted,” said an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Leahy told that he has been consulting with the Obama administration’s SCOTUS team for weeks and personally tipped off the president about Stevens’s intention to retire in January, after meeting with the 89-year-old justice in Stevens’s personal office inside the Supreme Court building.

Senate Republicans have vowed to scrutinize Obama’s pick – and have refused to rule out a filibuster if the candidate is outside the “mainstream,” according to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, dismissed the frantic pre-nomination strategizing by Democrats and scoffed at statements by Obama’s aides saying the process would have nothing to do with political considerations.

“Are you telling me they want to use the Supreme Court confirmation for political purposes? They told us we weren’t supposed to do that,” he said. “Jeez Louise, I’m confused. You need a scorecard to keep up with these guys.”

Obama is expected to decide on a nominee from a list of about 10 moderate to liberal lawyers and judges within the next several weeks.

On Monday, an administration official confirmed the names of two more jurists on that list: federal appeals court Judge Sidney Thomas of Montana and former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, the first African-American state chief judge in American history.

They join a roster of possible picks known to include Solicitor General Elena Kagan, federal Judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, a former prosecutor.

While all of the names on Obama’s shortlist enjoy solid reputations, none of them have the sheer populist pop of the justices appointed to the high court by Franklin D. Roosevelt, another Democratic president claiming to represent the common man.

Roosevelt – operating in an age before instant messaging and cable news – had more leeway in his picks, but they were an audacious bunch: William O. Douglas, who cleaned up Wall Street as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, utility-buster Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter, author of the landmark Securities Act of 1933.

“These were big personalities, really famous people with long, controversial paper trails, people with really powerful liberal records,” said Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, who is writing a history of FDR and the court.

Regardless of the selection, Republicans on the committee will almost certainly paint any Obama nominee as a liberal judicial activist and pepper the person with familiar questions about his or her writings, decisions and speeches.

But this time, Democrats are likely to counter with their own set of questions about conservative activism – and question the judicial philosophy of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy in their recent decisions.

Among the cases Senate Democrats intend to focus on: the politically charged Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007), in which the Roberts court denied a pay equity complaint from a female factory supervisor because she had failed to file by the three-year deadline, and the court’s 2008 decision to reduce damages from the Exxon Valdez spill from $5 billion to $507 million.

On a parallel track, Democrats, led by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), will soon introduce legislation to increase transparency among some corporate donations.

But the Citizens United case, which scrapped key sections of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws, is the one that the White House and Hill Democrats plan to target most.

Citizens United “is the most high-profile case in the last couple of years, and there’s no question, in my judgment, that the issue will be raised one way or another during the nominee’s testimony before the committee,” said Obama spokesman Josh Earnest.

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01
Apr
10

March jobs jump could lift Obama

NEWS
March jobs jump could lift Obama

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The economy is expected to have added hundreds of thousands of jobs in March, bolstering the Obama’s administration’s arguments that the $787 billion stimulus package is working.

Private forecasts on the unemployment report to be released on Friday predict as many as 200,000 jobs will have been created in March.

Economist Mark Zandi, who advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the 2008 campaign and Democrats during the crafting of the stimulus, projects that 175,000 jobs will have been created.

Zandi’s estimate is that 100,000 of those jobs were created by the Census Bureau, which is hiring hundreds of thousands of workers to go door to door to get people to fill out their censuses.

Another 50,000 jobs are a bounce-back from February, when Zandi and other economists believe harsh winter storms contributed to lower-than-expected hiring. The economy shed 36,000 jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Either way, the numbers will provide a jolt of good economic news for President Barack Obama, who is already enjoying the fruits of Democrats’ healthcare victory.

If the economy did add 175,000 jobs, it would be the most jobs created since March 2007, when the economy added 239,000 jobs.

Democrats nervous about the fall elections want to push the storyline that their efforts with the stimulus helped stave off a new Great Depression, and that an economy that lost nearly 3.7 million jobs in the months immediately following Obama’s election is now moving forward.

The March figures would boost that narrative, but there are several clouds on the horizon.

It’s unclear whether the 9.7 percent unemployment rate will drop at all, even with the positive job numbers.

Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute says the rate could stay at 9.7 percent or even jump to 9.8 percent. The reason is workers who gave up looking for jobs are now coming back to the workforce.

Also, the help from Census hiring is a temporary boost at best. Most Census workers will only be employed for a matter of months.

That means it could be a cruel summer for Obama and Democrats when the Census Bureau begins cutting jobs this summer. Job figures could look great in March, April and May only to look terrible in June, July and August, Shierholz said.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday projected a small improvement in the labor market. It recorded a drop in the gap between jobs available and jobs that are hard to get.

The ratio of 41.4 percent is the best reading of that statistic since August 2008, Goldman said in the report, but is still indicative of a fragile labor market.

Zandi said job growth won’t be strong enough until late in 2010 or early in 2011 to bring down unemployment significantly.

“A lack of credit for small businesses and still-weak business confidence will slow the job-market recovery,” he said.
• Source(s): Mark Zandi, Chief Economist – Moody’s Analytics, Inc.
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25
Mar
10

Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

NEWS
Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Democratic senators ripped their Republican counterparts for forcing cancellations of hearings throughout the Senate on Wednesday, claiming that the GOP is needlessly blocking essential national security business.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill both complained that Republicans kept them from holding their hearings on budget requests for the military’s Pacific and strategic and police training contracts in Afghanistan.

Either party in the Senate is allowed to object to holding hearings, as Senate rules require a unanimous consent request for hearings to be held after 2 p.m. Most of these unanimous consent requests aren’t even noticed on any given day, but Republicans have been objecting to these requests, essentially shutting down committee work.

“It is astounding to me that the Republicans have decided to take this course of action. There’s no point to it. It does not accomplish their goals of stopping health care reform. All it can do is stop us from carrying out our duties to provide for the security of our country,” Levin said.

Generals from U.S. Pacific Command, Strategic Command and U.S. Forces Korea posted overseas flew to Washington for their annual update to the Armed Services committee, and Levin said his staff is working to reschedule a hearing for Friday but that it is unclear whether the generals will be able to stay that long.

Levin said he approached Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) Tuesday night at a meeting with senators and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alerting him of the importance of the hearing and asking for assistance in ensuring the committee could meet. “He told me he’d look into it,” Levin said.

McCaskill, who chairs the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, stepped up the criticism of the McConnell, saying that although he might not be the senator blocking the committee hearings, it’s well within his purview to stop it.

“If he’s a strong enough leader to keep all of his members in the corral on some of the things he’s kept them in the corral on in the past few months–surely, he’s a strong enough leader to say we’re not going to stop hearings on police training contracts in Afghanistan and commanders who travel halfway across the world to testify on behalf our United States military,” McCaskill said of McConnell.

McCaskill went on to say that the rule that allows members to block committee proceedings is “dumb” and “antiquated” and that although the “buck stops with the Republican leader… at a minimum, they owe the American people an answer as to who is responsible.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is pushing to strike so-called “sweetheart deals” such as an extra $300 million in Medicaid funds for the state of Louisiana. Critics have labeled the deal the “Louisiana Purchase.”

Democrats have dismissed the GOP proposals as little more than politically motivated obstructionism meant to derail the deal.

Republicans are “not serious about helping this bill,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said Wednesday. They are concerned only with “throwing roadblocks in front of anything we do.”

Reid said Senate Democrats “feel very comfortable and confident” that the package of changes as currently drafted will pass.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said Tuesday he didn’t think the Senate would change the bill, but if it did, the House would be prepared to vote on the revised bill and send it to Obama.

After a White House meeting Monday night with Senate Democratic leaders and Obama, a senior Democratic source said they believe some portions of the fixes bill may be ruled out of order because they violate the complicated legislative rules governing the process. The source would not specify the potential problems identified at the meeting.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said one or two potential problems were identified, but he said they were minor.

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15
Mar
10

Health Insurance Reform Right Now

NEWS
Health Insurance Reform Right Now

Monday, March 15, 2010


President Barack Obama continued to try to put a human face on Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system as he raised the stakes Monday on final passage of a reform bill.

The cornerstone of Obama’s speech in this Cleveland suburb was Natoma Canfield, an Ohio woman with leukemia who sent a letter to Obama saying her insurance premiums went up 40 percent. Obama recently read the letter at a meeting with health insurance company executives.

“I’m here because of Natoma,” he said after being introduced by Canfield’s sister. “I’m here because of the countless others who have been forced to face the most terrifying challenges of their lives with the added burden of medical bills they cannot pay. I don’t think that’s right. Neither do you, and that’s why we need health insurance reform, right now.”

Obama highlighted Canfield’s story to argue the urgent need for reform, saying she was diagnosed with cancer 16 years ago and couldn’t afford to keep her health insurance in January after her premiums repeatedly increased, he explained.

Since her new diagnosis with leukemia, Obama said, “she is racked with worry not only about her illness but about the cost of the tests and the treatments that she’s surely going to need to beat it.”

“And so when you hear people say ‘start over’ — I want you to think about Natoma,” he said. “When you hear people saying that this isn’t the ‘right time’ — you think about what she’s going through. When you hear people talk about, ‘well, what does this mean for the Democrats, what does this mean for the Republicans, I don’t know how the polls are doing,’ when you hear people more worried about the politics of it than what’s right and what’s wrong, I want you to think about Natoma and the millions of people all across the country who are looking for some help.”

“What we have to understand is, what’s happening to Natoma, there but for the grace of God go any one of us,” Obama said.

Canfield, who lives in the nearby congressional district of Rep. John Boccieri, a freshman Democrat who voted against health care reform last year, was recently readmitted to the hospital to be treated for leukemia. The diagnosis came Saturday, after Obama shared her letter with the nation and scheduled his trip to Strongsville.

The crowd was as feisty as Obama, shouting things to him, and finishing his sentences for him. At one point, a woman shouted to him as he was talking about how “and now as we get closer to the vote there is a lot of hand wringing going on. …”

“We need courage!” a woman shouted.

And he incorporated it into his remarks, saying repeatedly that Washington needs “courage.”

“The truth is, what is at stake in this debate is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem,” he said. “The American people want to know if it’s still possible for Washington to look out for their interests, for their future. So what they’re looking for is some courage. They’re waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. … And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership.”

While pitching his proposal on a stage in the middle of a toss-up region represented by members of Congress who are on the fence about supporting reform, Obama shunned the politics of the health care debate.

“I don’t know about the politics,” he said in the ultimate swing state of Ohio with less than a week to go before his top aides say reform will be nearly complete. “But I know what’s the right thing to do. And so I am calling on Congress to pass these reforms — and I’m going to sign them into law. I want some courage. I want us to do the right thing.”

Obama continued to argue that his proposal melds ideas of Democrats and Republicans, despite t House Republican leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio said Sunday that he merely “took a couple of Republican bread crumbs and put them on top of their 2700-page bill.”

Obama also ad-libbed to say his plan is paid for, and, digging at Republicans, said that’s “more than can be said for our colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” who passed a prescription-drug plan without paying “for any of it.”

“Now they’re up there on their high horse,” he says. “Their plan expanded the deficit.”

Several dozen demonstrators protesting Obama’s health care proposal had gathered as early as 9: 30 a.m. outside the Strongsville senior center at which Obama spoke. The area Obama came to make his pitch is such a battleground that during the presidential campaign, Republican Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, had packed a crowd of 8,000 in the same venue.

“No govt health care” read one of the protestors’ signs, bearing one of the critical arguments that has stuck since the debate over reform began more than a year ago.

Obama was on the defensive once again, arguing that his proposal is not a government takeover of health care, stressing that under his proposal “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

He also fought back against critics who say his plan would hurt Medicare. “This proposal makes Medicare stronger, makes the coverage better, and makes its finances more secure,” Obama said. “Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed — or is trying to misinform you. Don’t let them hoodwink you.”

As for politics, Obama downplayed their role in his push for reform. But politics was outside on the street in Strongsville, more than 200 miles away in Cincinnati and right there in the audience.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the liberal Ohio Democrat who voted against the health care bill the first time, was seated in the senior center and flew with Obama to Cleveland on Air Force One. When Obama introduced Kucinich, who voted ‘no’ on health care reform the first time, an audience member shouted “Vote yes!”

“Did you hear that Dennis?” Obama said, urging the man to say it again.

“Vote yes!” he shouted.

As Obama spoke in Strongsville, Vice President Joe Biden was in the Cincinnati area raising money for Rep. Steve Driehaus, a freshman Democrat who voted for the House bill in November but now is undecided.

“Of course, now that we’re approaching this vote, we’re hearing a lot of people in Washington talking about the politics, talking about what this means for November,” Obama said after renewing his call for “an up or down vote.” “Because in the end, this debate is about far more than the politics. It’s comes down to what kind of country we want to be.”

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